Not from the 82 he shot at Pebble Beach at the US Open 2010. Not the 12-foot three putt on a bumpy 18th green that cost him at Chambers Bay. Not even the one-shot lead he lost three months ago at Harding Park. They were among four times he had at least a share of the 54-hole lead in a major and did not convert.
He talks about the last three days at Augusta National. His was a masterful performance.
“If I can play like I did today I think it will break that streak,” Johnson said on Saturday. “Tomorrow it’s only 18 holes of golf. I need to come out and play solid. I feel like I’m swinging really well. If I can keep giving myself a lot of birdie looks, I think it’s a good day. “
A third round that started with 10 players separated by 1 shot turned into a one-man show.
The No.1 player in the world watched every piece with a 7-under 65, shooting away with the eagle and two birdies in the first four holes, nearly punching a corner of the seventh fairway, handling par-5s on the nine with two-put birdies and the previous 30 holes without a bogey.
He was 16 under 200, tying the record of 54 holes Jordan Spieth set in 2015, when he won the Masters by 4 shots over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.
This cast of challengers is not as experienced.
Two of them are Masters rookies. Sungjae Im, South Korea’s supreme ball forward who won his first PGA Tour title two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic brought golf to a halt in the spring, hit the last hole for a 68. Abraham Ancer, of the Mexico saved par on the 18th for a 69.
Cameron Smith of Australia, who had 12 straight pars before running three birdies in a row and ending with three scrambles for a 69, joined them at under-204.
“He’s been there a few times before and world No. 1,” Ancer said. “I think he’s exactly where he wants to be. We know we have to go low, and that’s it. It’s very simple. If DJ comes out and plays really solid like today, it will be next to impossible to catch him. . Everything that needs to be done there has to be pretty special. ”
Still, there is enormous pressure on Johnson because of his history. He didn’t convert two 54-hole leaders, nor did he win at two majors in which he shared the 54-hole lead. His only major was the 2016 US Open, in which he rallied 4 shots behind at Oakmont.
“Anyone with a 4-stroke lead should win,” Smith said. “There will be plenty of boys shooting tomorrow. ”
Attacking the flags is what Augusta National allowed in November, with rain earlier in the week and warm, calm conditions that kept the turf soft and vulnerable.
Johnson, who had to be absent from two tournaments after testing positive for COVID-19 a month ago, has still entered the Masters after winning twice since the start of August. During that span, he also finished second on three occasions and finished sixth at the US Open.
“I’m very comfortable having my head tomorrow. I’ve been in this situation a lot, ”Johnson said. “I can’t wait to take on the challenge. It will always be a difficult day. I’m going to have to play well if I want to get there. ”
Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm had their chances, only to make untimely mistakes. Rahm nearly passed his second shot on the eighth par-5, which he attributed to mud on his golf ball, and hit the next one out of a tree and into the bushes on his way to a double bogey.
Thomas took his second shot over the 15th green and into the water, bogeying over a par-5 on which he hoped to catch some ground. Both bogeyed the 18th hole. Thomas shot 71 and Rahm had a 72.
When asked to describe his day, Rahm didn’t mince words.
“Seriously? How would I describe? Pretty awful, ”he said.
The final round start times have been moved to end at 3 p.m. so CBS can honor their NFL contract, and it will be lines on both tees. Like all week – and all season – there won’t be any roars to add to the pressure.
“Unfortunately for all of us chasing DJs, are there no fans or nothing to make this moment even more difficult, to have the buzz, to have the adrenaline, to have a little more pressure on he who will not be here this year, ”said Thomas.
Defending champion Tiger Woods will stay on Sunday to present the green jacket, and he will have to leave his at Augusta National until his return.
Woods was 4 under at 10 holes to start the Masters, and he collected just one stroke over the next 44 holes. He finished a 71 in the second round on Saturday morning, had a 72 in the third round and was 11 shots behind.
US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau was more dizzy than painful. He was feeling so weird on Thursday night that he had another COVID-19 test to be sure – he came back negative – and this Masters betting favorite was in the middle of the pack, 13 shots behind.
The score has been low all week. The 36-hole cut on Saturday morning was par 144, the lowest in Masters history, another update to the club’s record books.
Still ahead of Johnson, there is a chance to set the 72 hole record. All he cares about is a green jacket, and given his past experience, he knows better than to look to the future.